Nielsen’s Unrealised Opera Plans


  • Niels Krabbe



In addition to the two finished operas of Nielsen, scattered sources show that throughout his life he had at least five other opera projects in mind, which for various reasons were given up at different stages in their progress. The article presents the sources that are available for these projects, comprising the following works: Judith, Psycke, The Silent Woman, Portia, and Fru Marie Grubbe. The focus of the article is on Nielsen’s plan to compose an opera based on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice under the working title Portia. Two important manuscripts in the Royal Library show that Nielsen himself had worked out a complete synopsis for the opera, and that the librettist, Sophus Michaëlis, had made a full text of the first act. A comparison of the two manuscripts and Shakespeare’s play reveals that the opera would have been quite different from the model with its focus on the character of Portia and the leaving out the merchant Antonio. Nielsen apparently gave up the idea, and no music from the work in progress worth mentioning is known.

Author Biography

Niels Krabbe

Niels Krabbe is Research Professor Emeritus at The Royal Library in Copenhagen, where he was head of the Music and Theatre Department 1996-2009 and head of the Danish Centre for Music Editing 2009-2012. Editor-in-chief of The Carl Nielsen Edition and Carl Nielsen Studies, vols. 1-5, he was also head of The Department of Musicology of Copenhagen University from 1984-1996.




How to Cite

Krabbe, N. (2020). Nielsen’s Unrealised Opera Plans. Carl Nielsen Studies, 6.